All in One Guide to Gambling in New York
New York is one of the most exciting states in regards to online gambling, and there are two reasons why:
- They're close to legalizing online poker.
- They're a large and wealthy state.
New York has had serious discussions on Internet poker over the last few years, and they could very well be the next state to legalize and regulate online gaming.
While the Empire State seems progressive on this front, they've also proven to be draconian on some iGaming issues.
For one, they've executed a plan to bring down the world's largest offshore poker sites. They've also led a charge against daily fantasy sports (DFS) sites.
We'll cover both of these incidents later, along with New York's current laws on Internet gambling.
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Online Gambling and New York Law
Many offshore gaming sites offer their services in New York, but this has slowed due to the Empire State's legal actions against iGaming companies.
This doesn't mean that you won't find a single offshore site operating in New York, but the number has been drastically lowered due to fears of prosecution.
Does this mean that you'll also be arrested if you try to play at the few offshore sites found there? This is just one of the questions that we've going to cover below.
Is Online Gambling Legal in New York?
While New York doesn't have specific language aimed at online gambling, they do have broad laws that can punish operators. Going further, their legal actions against operators (covered later) show that they do, in fact, think Internet gambling is considered illegal.
Sec. 225.00 describes language that can be used to target offshore gaming sites:
(4) "A person "advances gambling activity" when, acting other than as a player, he engages in conduct which materially aids any form of gambling activity. Such conduct includes but is not limited to conduct directed toward the creation or establishment of the particular game, contest, scheme, device or activity involved, toward the acquisition or maintenance of premises, paraphernalia, equipment or apparatus therefor, toward the solicitation or inducement of persons to participate therein, toward the actual conduct of the playing phases thereof, toward the arrangement of any of its financial or recording phases, or toward any other phase of its operation. One advances gambling activity when, having substantial proprietary or other authoritative control over premises being used with his knowledge for purposes of gambling activity, he permits such to occur or continue or makes no effort to prevent its occurrence or continuation."
The same section goes on to describe another law that can be used against operators of iGaming or any other type of illegal gambling business:
(5) A person "profits from gambling activity" when, other than as a player, he accepts or receives money or other property pursuant to an agreement or understanding with any person whereby he participates or is to participate in the proceeds of gambling activity.
We've seen many states with broad definitions of illegal gambling like the two excerpts above. New York is one of the few that actually uses this language to fight against unlicensed iGaming operators.
What is Black Friday (Online Poker)?
On Friday, April 15, 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted the founders of the world's largest offshore poker sites. This day is known as "Black Friday" in the online poker community.
Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, led the case against AbsolutePoker.com, FullTiltPoker.com, PokerStars.com and UltimateBet.com.
Bharara's indictment explains the rationale behind the case as follows:
"As charged, these defendants concocted an elaborate criminal fraud scheme, alternately tricking some U.S. banks and effectively bribing others to assure the continued flow of billions in illegal gambling profits. Moreover, as we allege, in their zeal to circumvent the gambling laws, the defendants also engaged in massive money laundering and bank fraud. Foreign firms that choose to operate in the United States are not free to flout the laws they don't like simply because they can't bear to be parted from their profits."
As Bharara's statement indicates, these poker sites violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). The UIGEA makes it illegal for American financial institutions to process unlicensed iGaming transactions.
The aforementioned sites disguised player deposits as bicycles, golf equipment, flowers and jewelry so that U.S. financial banks would process them.
The end result is that many of the owners and executives forfeited millions of dollars and/or spent time in prison.
Why do Online Casinos not Serve New York?
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York acts as the federal law enforcement agency around New York City and surrounding counties.
Given this office's location, combined with Bharara's actions, online gaming sites have wisely avoided New York after Black Friday.
During Bharara's time in office (2009 to 2017), he developed the reputation as a "crusader" after doing the following in his 8 year tenure:
- Going after Wall Street executives for insider trading.
- Closing multibillion dollar hedge funds.
- Conducting political corruption investigations into Democrats and Republicans.
- Prosecuting terrorism and civil rights cases.
Bharara was asked by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign in March 2017, along with all other attorneys appointed under the Obama Administration. He was fired after refusing to resign.
Even with Bharara out of office, most offshore gambling sites still stay out of New York due to the past events.
Another reason why they don't serve New York is because of the penalties for unlicensed operators. Any individual/business who collects over $5,000 in unlicensed daily bets faces felony gambling charges.
Will I be Arrested for Gambling Online in New York?
It's possible, but highly unlikely.
Despite their tough stance against Internet gaming operators, New York has never arrested anybody for gambling online.
Online gaming has been available for over two decades. If the Empire State hasn't prosecuted anybody by now, they probably never will.
It's clear from their legal precedence that they're mainly concerned about illegal offshore operators.
This could change if/when New York legalizes online poker. But as seen with Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey, regulated states take serious measure to block offshore sites.
Are Offshore Gaming Sites Safe?
When you find an offshore gambling site serving New York, is it safe to play?
This all depends upon the specific site and their history of dealing with players. The best way to answer this question is to do research by reading reviews and visiting sites directly.
Here are key points you want to look for in reviews and when visiting sites yourself:
- Bonus Terms -How much do you have to wager to earn your welcome bonus? What's the match percentage? These are two important questions to answer before depositing.
- Customer Service - You definitely want a gaming site that's good at dealing with customers in a friendly and timely manner.
- Deposit Options -Before you invest too much time into researching a specific site, make sure that they have deposit options you can use.
- Game Variety - Whether you're dealing with an online casino or sportsbook, variety is important so that you're always entertained.
- Longevity -The longer a gaming site has been around, the more likely they are to be reputable and offer their players good service.
Are Daily Fantasy Sports Legal in New York?
The State Legislature passed a daily fantasy sports bill in the summer of 2016. Gov. Andrew Cuomo made it official by signing the legislation into effect in August 2016.
DFS operators must obtain licensing and pay a 15% tax on revenue made in New York.
Prior to legalizing the activity, the Empire State had a long and interesting history with DFS.
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman sued industry leaders DraftKings and FanDuel to force them out of the state.
DraftKings and FanDuel had been operating in New York and other states because there was no law against doing so. Furthermore, fantasy sports are the one thing exempt from the UIGEA, meaning any bank can process their transactions.
But Schneiderman was adamant that DFS was illegal, telling PBS' Frontline that the activity doesn't differ from any other form of gambling.
"They [DraftKings & FanDuel] take a rake, they take a portion of each betting pot," he said."These are not a new version of traditional fantasy sports. This is just a new version of Internet gambling, more in common with Internet poker than with traditional fantasy sports leagues."
After a long legal battle, the two DFS sites agreed that their advertisements misled players into thinking they could easily win. DraftKings and FanDuel each paid a $12 million fine, and are now licensed in New York's DFS market.
Breaking down what exactly is or isn't legal in New York. Gambling Venues in New York
Where to gamble in the state of New York. The History of Gaming Laws in New York
A brief history of New York laws regarding gambling. Additional Information
Still have questions? Check out these links. The Future of Gambling in New York
What does the future of gambling look like in New York?
More Gambling Laws in New York
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (GRA) of 1988 paved the way for Native American tribes and state governments to negotiate casino compacts.
New York did so with their tribes in 1993, paving the way for Class II gaming like bingo, poker, raffles and slot machines. Under Class II gaming, New York's tribal slots must produce results through a lottery server.
Oneida Indian Nation was the first New York tribe to benefit from the IGRA when they built and opened Turning Stone Casino in 1993.
In 2003, the state and tribes renegotiated so that the latter could offer Class III gaming. This includes Vegas style gaming like baccarat, blackjack, craps, roulette and slot machines that run through random number generators.
Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel became the first to offer Class III gaming in New York. Today, all three New York tribes with casinos - Oneida Nation, Seneca Nation and St. Regis Mohawks - offer Class III gaming in one or more of their venues.
In 2013, the state passed the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act, which legalized commercial casinos.
Initially, New York will only allow four commercial casinos to limit in-state competition to tribes. Three of the licenses have been awarded to the Catskills, Finger Lakes and Schenectady areas.
Over time, the Empire State will add three slots parlors, making for a total of seven commercial casinos.
Cruise Gambling: Illegal
New York based cruise ships are also allowed to offer gambling in international waters.
These cruises used to only have to travel three miles offshore before casino gambling begins. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani pushed the federal government to create a 12-mile requirement for gambling cruises. Giuliani's reasoning is that he thought it would help prevent terrorism, but it also forced some gambling cruises to close as they lost popularity.
After all, most gamblers don't appreciate waiting three hours until they're 12 miles offshore.
Charitable Gambling: Legal
Sec. 185 (4) of the state constitution governs the charity gaming industry.
This section states that educational, fraternal, service, veteran and volunteer fireman charities can apply for licensing. Every member who runs these functions must have been an active member for at least three years.
Approved charity games include bingo, bell jars, raffles and seal cards. Poker, other skill based card games and Vegas style gaming are banned from charity-purposed gambling.
New York has America's largest lottery, with annual revenue now topping $9.7 billion.
Available games include: Cash4Life, Mega Millions, Numbers, Pick 10, Powerball, Quick Draw, Take 5 and Win 4.
New York features 5 poker rooms, with Turning Stone offering the largest one. Their poker room features 32 tables, and is the site for the show Poker Night in America.
New York has a long and rich history of pari-mutuel betting. It began in 1895, and served as one of the early hotbeds for horseracing.
Today, New York still has one of the biggest pari-mutuel wagering industries in America, but, like other states, they've seen the market drop in recent decades.
This is why the state voted to allow slots at racetracks in the mid 2000s.
Social Gambling: Legal
The New York criminal code carves out an exception for social gambling in Sec. 225.00 (3), which you can see below:
"A person who gambles at a social game of chance on equal terms with the other participants therein does not otherwise render material assistance to the establishment, conduct or operation thereof by performing, without fee or remuneration, acts directed toward the arrangement or facilitation of the game ..."
As long as nobody treats a social gaming function as an illegal gambling business (i.e. taking rake, selling alcohol), there's nothing wrong with the activity in New York.
Gambling Venues in New York
The Empire State features over 30 gambling facilities, including commercial casinos, racetracks, slots parlors and tribal casinos.
Overall, this gives players access to a combined 37,000 gaming machines and over 1,100 table games.
New York City's Resorts World is the largest casino, featuring 5,000 slot machines and 475 table games. Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel is the second biggest casino, offering 3,300 gaming machines and 100 table games.
You can see details on these casinos and a few other gaming venues below.
Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway
810 Yonkers Avenue Yonkers, New York
Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack
5857 Route 96 Farmington, New York
Norwegian Cruise Lines - Breakaway
A711 12th Ave New York, New York
Resorts World Casino New York City
110-00 Rockaway Boulevard New York, New York
Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady
695 Rotterdam Industrial Park Schenectady, New York
Royal Flush Casino - Carnival Splendor Cruise
711 12th Avenue New York, New York
Saratoga Casino Hotel
342 Jefferson St Saratoga Springs, New York
Seneca Allegany Casino & Hotel
777 Seneca Allegany Boulevard Salamanca, New York
Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino
1 Fulton Street Buffalo, New York
Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel
310 Fourth Street Niagara Falls, New York
Turning Stone Resort & Casino
5218 Patrick Road Verona, New York
History of Gambling in New York
New York has one of the longest gambling histories in the U.S. This history begins in 1821, when the state banned all forms of gaming in the constitution.
The Empire State's gambling market didn't pick up until the 1890s, when they legalized pari-mutuel betting and founded the State Racing Commission.
The Hart-Agnew Law of 1908 banned pari-mutuel betting, though, and forced it underground.
After seeing every New York racetrack close down and surrounding business affected, the State Legislature announced that the bill only covers bookmakers. This led to the relaunch of New York's pari-mutuel industry to help it thrive again.
In 1966, the state legalized lottery tickets. This is a major milestone because the New York State Lottery now sells more tickets than any lottery in the U.S.
In 1993, New York signed a casino compact with Native American tribes, allowing them to offer Class III gaming.
Two decades later, the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act was signed, allowing for commercial casinos.
What's most exciting about New York's gambling history is their recent efforts to legalize online poker.
These efforts began when an Internet poker bill was almost included in the 2013 state budget. At the time of this writing, an online poker bill has passed the State Senate and is under review in the State Assembly.
State Legislature bans all gambling in the constitution.
State Racing Commission.
Court rules that Hart-Agnew law only covers bookmakers: pari-mutuel betting picks back up.
Lottery tickets go on sale, with proceeds going to educational fund.
Congress passes the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to allow tribal casino.
Oneida Nation opens Turning Stone Casino, which is the state's first casino.
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani pushes for changes to gambling cruise laws; cruise ship gambling pushed from three miles to 12 miles offshore.
Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act creates four destinations for gaming resorts.
State Sen. John Bonacic introduces online poker bill, but it doesn't receive a vote.
Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee passes online poker bill, but the legislation doesn't recieve a vote; Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs daily fantasy sports into effect.
State bans lotteries.
Hart-Agnew Law band pari-mutuel betting and other forms of gambling.
Charity bingo legalized through constitutional amendment.
New York State Racing and Wagering Board formed.
New York and tribes casino compact; tribal venues can offer Class IIII gaming.
State and tribes renegotiate to allow Class III gaming like baccarat, craps, roulette, slot machines, and video poker.
Commercial casinos allowed under amendment to New York Constitution.
Online poker legislation is included in budget plan draft, but cut in final version.
State Legislature has discussion on Internet gambling; New York State Lottery sets record with $97 billion in tickets sales.
New York Senate passes online poker legislation.
New York Gambling FAQs
While New York has legalized daily fantasy sports, they have yet to regulate other forms of online gaming.
Will this happen any time soon? Can you gamble on mobile devices in the meantime?
These are a couple of questions that we've received from players, and you can see the answers below.
Considering Black Friday and Schneiderman's battles against DraftKings/FanDuel, it seems like New York is harsh against online gambling. The reality though, is that they're on the forefront of legalizing online poker.
The first effort was originally attached to the state's budget plan in 2013. However, this was pulled before the final draft was completed.
In 2016, the Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee passed legislation (SB 5302) to regulate Internet poker. The bill passed the State Senate by a 53 to 5 vote, but it failed to receive a vote in the Assembly.
Another online poker bill has passed the Senate in 2017. At the time of this writing, the State Assembly is still reviewing the legislation.
Regardless of what the Assembly does, chances are strong that New York will pass a bill sometime within the next couple of years.
So far, Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey are the only states with legalized iGaming.
Delaware and New Jersey both offer casino games and iPoker; Nevada only offers online poker.
While none of these states have met their original and lofty revenue projections, New Jersey and Delaware are outperforming Nevada from a per capita standpoint.
In New Jersey's case, they're earning over 80% of their iGaming revenue from casino games.
New York isn't interested in regulating Internet casino games right now. If they do legalize online poker, they'd be wise to add casino gaming to the mix ASAP.
Earlier we covered how New York has yet to bust anybody for gambling online.
For the sake of precaution, note that New York's criminal code does include one section that can be used against online gamblers.
Section 225.00 (7) describes an illegal gambling device as follows:
"... means any device, machine, paraphernalia or equipment which is used or usable in the playing phases of any gambling activity, whether such activity consists of gambling between persons or gambling by a person involving the playing of a machine. Notwithstanding the foregoing, lottery tickets, policy slips and other items used in the playing phases of lottery and policy schemes are not gambling devices."
This definition would certainly cover a smartphone or tablet. Does it mean that New York police will be actively looking for people playing mobile casino games?
No. They have much bigger things to worry about than somebody playing at offshore sites through their smartphone. The key, though, is to be aware of this law just in case.
In fact, New York indicted a California based online sports betting ring that accepted over $1 billion worth of wagers.
Four California men operated the Internet sportsbooks Hustler272.org and WagerABC.com. Gordon Mitchnick, the leader of the operation, used a Brooklyn bookie to help launder money.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson told the New York Daily News that this might be the largest sports betting ring ever busted.
"The principals of this huge gambling operation," said Thompson," possibly the biggest one ever to be dismantled by a local prosecutor's office - allegedly moved millions of dollars around the United States and the world and used various tactics to launder these proceeds."
The Empire State features two main gambling governing bodies, including the New York State (NYS) Gambling Commission and New York Lottery. Here's information on both of these organizations along with notes on charity gambling.
New York State Gambling Commission- The NYS Gambling Commission is in charge of many of the state's gambling facets, including charitable gaming, horseracing, and casinos.
New York Charitable Gambling Laws- Located on the NYS Gambling Commission website, this page features important information on the state's charitable gaming laws and updates.
New York Lottery- The New York Lottery is the United States' biggest lottery. This organization handles over $9.7 billion worth of revenue, awarding around half of this back in prizes.
The Future & Your Views
The Empire State is one of the closest states to legalizing online gaming.
They've introduced and discussed online poker legislation for several years and are very serious about legalizing it.
Assuming this happens, New York would immediately become America's largest iGaming market at 19.75 million people. This includes the massive New York City metropolitan area, which features a population of over 20.15 million.
The only catch, though, is that the Empire State doesn't have plans to legalize online casino games too. As we covered earlier, New Jersey has benefited greatly from having both online casino and poker games.
The fact that New York is strongly considering any form of iGaming is good news. This, combined with their DFS market, means that players could have multiple online gambling options.
Looking at their population, we really hope that the Empire State legalizes online poker. After all, this would create numerous headlines and influence other states to push harder for Internet gambling.